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GRC event just a bandage on a bullet wound

Melissa Jordan | Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In “Dating at Notre Dame: The Remix,” (April 3), Dr. Moss addresses how a hookup culture exists in place of a dating culture on campus, and he speaks to the efforts that the Gender Relations Center (GRC) has undertaken to initiate a shift to a culture of healthier relationships.

However, while the GRC’s end goal is noble, and their efforts are to be commended, their plan of action that has been demonstrated seems naïve at best. For example, the GRC recently gave out coffee vouchers to encourage students to go on coffee dates. The idea behind this was to encourage a movement away from the hookup culture.

However, much like haphazardly slapping a cheap plastic bandage on a bullet wound to the heart, GRC events seem to have not thoughtfully and objectively addressed the real problem: questions of identity and how those identities are formed by not only popular culture, but the Notre Dame image as well.

My critique of the GRC might best be illustrated by a personal experience. Last semester, I attended a “speed dating” event sponsored by the GRC. I went only for the discussion panel, as I have been in a happy relationship for nearly two years. One panelist cited the rising number of younger people having sex, compared it to data from previous decades and used this to support an argument that popular culture is contributing to sex at a younger age.

During the Q&A period that followed, I asked if the discrepancy in the data might be attributed to participant bias. Instead of answering the question, or even acknowledging that participant bias is always a concern in any survey data, the panelist responded with rhetoric that continued to uphold the argument, but was unrelated to the question. This response was lazy at best, and unethical at worst, as even the best data and methods will always disclose shortcomings.

If the GRC wants to solve tough issues, they must also ask tough questions. This includes an objective critique of their framework of understanding the Notre Dame hookup culture, as informed by the idealized Notre Dame image. It seems that social problems at Notre Dame, such as an unhealthy hookup culture, tend to be blamed on greater trends in American culture. While popular culture does indeed influence decisions, I feel that the GRC is missing a very important opportunity to critique how Notre Dame’s image and students’ relationship with our Catholic branding might contribute to gender relation problems at Notre Dame.

I am not suggesting the GRC look to criticize the Catholic faith. Rather, the GRC should also objectively investigate if the pressure students feel from trying to uphold Notre Dame’s pure and chaste Catholic image might negatively manifest through unhealthy activities such as “slut shaming” (we’ve all unfortunately have heard at least a St. Mary’s joke at some point in time) or even participating in the hookup culture. Such participation may be fueled by an unhealthy Madonna/Whore dichotomy that students are reacting to, and characterizing each extreme in different settings.

Certainly, the Catholic faith is a strong foundation for building relationships with one another. However, if the GRC would like to find a comprehensive solution to Notre Dame’s hookup culture, the GRC may also want to investigate and critique how Notre Dame’s image is affecting students, beyond the obvious and easy task of critiquing the effects of popular culture. The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson once wrote, “Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

Melissa Jordan


Ryan Hall

April 4